Legislature(2021 - 2022)BARNES 124

03/15/2021 06:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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06:53:10 PM Start
06:54:45 PM HB100
07:50:08 PM HB132
08:46:43 PM HB45
09:37:17 PM Confirmation Hearing(s):|| Alaska Workers' Compensation Board|| Board of Chiropractic Examiners
09:38:32 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Please Note Time Change --
-- Teleconference <Listen Only> --
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
+ Consideration of Governor's Appointees: TELECONFERENCED
- Alaska Worker's Compensation Board
- Board of Chiropractic Examiners
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
          HB 45-WORKERS' COMP. AND CONTAGIOUS DISEASES                                                                      
8:46:43 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  SPOHNHOLZ announced  that  the next  order of  business                                                               
would be  HOUSE BILL NO. 45,  "An Act relating to  presumption of                                                               
compensability  for  workers'   compensation  claims  related  to                                                               
contagious diseases; and providing for an effective date."                                                                      
8:47:19 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDY  JOSEPHSON,  Alaska  State  Legislature,  as                                                               
prime sponsor  of HB  45, provided a  refresher about  the bill's                                                               
provisions.   He  stated that  the bill's  origins stem  from the                                                               
COVID crisis  and Amendment  5 [on the  House floor]  to [Senate]                                                               
Bill  241.   He said  the provision  of [Senate]  Bill 241  being                                                               
spoken about  here was in  effect until 11/15/2020.   It offered,                                                               
some  might  say,  generous incentives  to  first  responders  to                                                               
report to work as they normally  would, and that only in times of                                                               
a disaster declaration  there would be a  strong presumption that                                                               
if they came  down with the disease, in this  case SARS COVID-19,                                                               
it would  be covered by workers  compensation.  He said  HB 45 is                                                               
in some respects  less generous than Amendment 5 in  that it does                                                               
allow for a rebuttable position to  be taken by the employer upon                                                               
clear and convincing  evidence that the employee did  not in fact                                                               
contract the disease at work,  but still there is the presumption                                                               
of compensability.   Also, he noted,  HB 45 expands the  class of                                                               
workers, principally in  the area of grocery  store employees and                                                               
teachers in childcare facilities.                                                                                               
8:49:22 PM                                                                                                                    
ELISE  SORUM-BIRK, Staff,  Representative Andy  Josephson, Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature,   on  behalf  of   Representative  Josephson,                                                               
sponsor  of  HB   45,  reviewed  a  memorandum   written  on  the                                                               
representative's  letterhead providing  answers to  the questions                                                               
that were  posed by  committee members  during the  bill's [first                                                               
hearing on 3/5/21].  Regarding  the question about the definition                                                               
of  grocery store,  she  stated  that it  is  the only  statutory                                                               
definition of grocery store in  Alaska statute.  She advised that                                                               
a new, more inclusive definition  could be drafted by Legislative                                                               
Legal   Services   if  the   committee   saw   fit.     Regarding                                                               
Representative  McCarty's  question  about whether  an  emergency                                                               
could be  statewide, regional,  or local in  nature, she  said it                                                               
can  be any  of those  as per  AS 26.23.020(c)  of "the  Disaster                                                               
Act,"  which  outlines how  a  governor  goes about  declaring  a                                                               
disaster  emergency  and that  the  governor  must "indicate  the                                                               
threated or affected area".                                                                                                     
MS. SORUM-BIRK related  that the sponsor was asked  to supply the                                                               
statutory definitions  of disaster  and the  section for  how the                                                               
governor can  declare disaster emergencies.   She said  there are                                                               
separate sections in the Disaster  Act, and the one referenced in                                                               
HB 45  is the governor's  power to declare a  disaster emergency.                                                               
[The  Disaster  Act],  she   continued,  includes  a  definitions                                                               
section  that   has  several  definitions   of  disaster.     The                                                               
definition in AS  26.23.900(2)(E) is an outbreak of  disease or a                                                               
credible  threat of  an  imminent outbreak  of  disease that  the                                                               
commissioner of the Department of  Health and Social Services, or                                                               
a  designee of  the  commissioner, [certifies  to the  governor].                                                               
The list  of things that  can be considered a  disaster emergency                                                               
is very long, she noted.                                                                                                        
MS. SORUM-BIRK addressed  Representative Kaufman's question about                                                               
whether an  employer might be  opened to liability by  having one                                                               
of its  employees receive workers'  compensation.   The sponsor's                                                               
answer,  she  said,  is  that   under  Alaska  statute,  workers'                                                               
compensation files and medical records  are kept confidential and                                                               
are  not considered  public  records.   If  something becomes  an                                                               
issue of litigation,  those records might be  released and become                                                               
more  public.   Regarding Representative  Kaufman's concern  that                                                               
employers  might  discriminate  against  employees  in  high-risk                                                               
categories,  she  cited a  publication  by  the Equal  Employment                                                               
Opportunities  Commission (EEOC)  that  was originally  published                                                               
during the H1N1  pandemic of 2009 and which the  EEOC updated for                                                               
COVID.   She informed the committee  that the short answer  is no                                                               
but  added that  it  is  more complicated  than  that.   Bringing                                                               
attention to page 3, she explained  that if something raises to a                                                               
certain level  of threat  the employer can  then ask  for certain                                                               
things  to  be   revealed  that  weren't  able   to  be  revealed                                                               
otherwise, which is why it isn't a straight no.                                                                                 
8:54:42 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. SORUM-BIRK  discussed Representative Kaufman's inquiry  as to                                                               
shared costs to the business  communities.  She drew attention to                                                               
the analysis  of HB  45 by the  National Council  on Compensation                                                               
Insurance (NCCI) that modeled infection  rate scenarios of 5, 15,                                                               
and 25 percent, and used a  mortality rate of 0.5 percent.  Given                                                               
Alaska's real  infection rate at  the end of December  [2020] was                                                               
about 5.9  percent and  the mortality rate  was 0.4  percent, she                                                               
said the  model for  a 5  percent cost  scenario is  probably the                                                               
most accurate  for Alaska.   There are different caveats,  and it                                                               
isn't  a perfect  fit  into  the model,  she  continued, but  the                                                               
NCCI's estimate for a 5 percent  infection rate was $2 million in                                                               
overall workers' compensation costs.                                                                                            
MS. SORUM-BIRK examined the implications  for paid sick leave and                                                               
how that  might interact with  the workers'  compensation system,                                                               
which was another question brought  up by Representative Kaufman.                                                               
She related that directors Scott  Jordan and Charles Collins both                                                               
explained  to her  that since  workers' compensation  is designed                                                               
really to be an exclusive remedy,  the first money out is payment                                                               
for  workers' compensation.   She  said workers'  compensation is                                                               
based on  80 percent  of a  worker's average  weekly wage  when a                                                               
worker  is out.   She  noted  that, interestingly,  the State  of                                                               
Alaska calculates what the remaining  20 percent would be so that                                                               
the employee is made whole.   Using that 20 percent from [a state                                                               
employee's] leave allows [a state  employee] to stay current with                                                               
benefits.   She added that  other employers might do  it slightly                                                               
differently than does the state.                                                                                                
8:56:53 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ remarked that  the memorandum is very thorough                                                               
in its detail and very useful.                                                                                                  
MS.  SORUM-BIRK spoke  to  Representative  McCarty's request  for                                                               
more details on the data, costs,  and number of claims in Alaska.                                                               
She  said Director  Collins  followed up  with  some numbers  via                                                               
email,  and while  she wouldn't  state  them all,  the number  of                                                               
COVID-related cased opened as of [3/12/21] was 2,483.                                                                           
8:57:51 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE NELSON  inquired whether  HB 45 is  retroactive in                                                               
covering previous iterations back in December.                                                                                  
MS.  SORUM-BIRK replied  that there  are two  effective dates,  a                                                               
retroactive date  and an immediate  date.  Under  the retroactive                                                               
clause, she  explained, anyone previously covered  last spring by                                                               
[Amendment 5  on the  House floor  to Senate  Bill 241]  would be                                                               
covered  retroactively to  November 15  [2020].   She noted  that                                                               
this  would be  first  responders and  medical professionals  who                                                               
lost  this  incentive  when  the  initial  emergency  declaration                                                               
expired.  For the new groups  of employees, she said, there is an                                                               
immediate effective date.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  NELSON  observed  that  the  sponsor's  statement                                                               
says, "An  employer could only  rebut a claim by  producing clear                                                               
and convincing evidence  that an employee infection  was not work                                                               
related."  He asked what the  sponsor would consider to be "clear                                                               
and  convincing evidence."   For  instance,  whether the  sponsor                                                               
would consider  an example to  be a  Facebook post of  the person                                                               
partying without a mask.                                                                                                        
MS. SORUM-BIRK  deferred to the  sponsor to speak  to evidentiary                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON  confirmed it could indeed  be something                                                               
like a Facebook post.   He explained that if a  claim were to get                                                               
very expensive,  an employer  may want to  depose people  to find                                                               
out where  the claimant could  have contracted the  disease other                                                               
than  the  place  of  employment.   For  example,  in  Anchorage,                                                               
patients brought  to the  hospital by  paramedics are  tested for                                                               
COVID, thereby  tracing it in  most circumstances.   According to                                                               
the attorney he  spoke with at the Municipality  of Anchorage who                                                               
is mitigating  some of the other  ones, they can trace  it to the                                                               
patient and then  the assumption is made, and the  claim is paid,                                                               
that  the  paramedic  delivering  the  patient  to  the  hospital                                                               
contracted  it from  the  patient.   There  are  other cases,  he                                                               
continued, where  the narrow language  in Senate Bill  241, which                                                               
isn't exactly mirrored  in HB 45, is being challenged  and so the                                                               
lawyers are  battling in  those cases.   He deferred  to Director                                                               
Collins to provide further detail.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE NELSON  posed a hypothetical  scenario of  a store                                                               
worker who  doesn't get infected  at the  store but goes  home to                                                               
someone  who  is  asymptomatic   and  unknowingly  spreading  the                                                               
infection.   He asked whether  that would technically  fall under                                                               
workers' compensation under HB 45.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON answered that  in this scenario there is                                                               
a chance that  the employee would receive benefits.   He said the                                                               
benefits would be limited in that  there must first be a declared                                                               
disaster of infectious disease, and  typically the extent of that                                                               
disaster is  going to be  30 days unless the  legislature extends                                                               
it.  This  benefit is important, but it is  constrained, he said.                                                               
Typically, it will not be  utilized because it won't be available                                                               
on the facts before (indisc.  rustling of microphone).                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE NELSON  said that  while he  doesn't like  to play                                                               
the "what  if" game,  it is also  good to game  play to  find out                                                               
whether this  would count for  someone who isn't infected  at the                                                               
grocery store but rather at home.                                                                                               
CO-CHAIR  SPOHNHOLZ announced  that Director  Charles Collins  is                                                               
online and  could address Representative Nelson's  question about                                                               
clear and convincing evidence.                                                                                                  
9:03:13 PM                                                                                                                    
CHARLES  COLLINS, Director,  Division  of Workers'  Compensation,                                                               
Department of Labor and  Workforce Development (DOLWD), responded                                                               
that the question is somewhat  complicated.  He explained that if                                                               
the  employer decided  there was  a possibility  the disease  was                                                               
contracted outside  the course of  normal business,  the employer                                                               
could  controvert it  and have  a hearing  before an  industry of                                                               
labor and  hearing officer panel,  at which the employee  and the                                                               
employer  would bring  their  evidence.   He said  it  is a  very                                                               
complicated  question in  that three  people  in an  adjudication                                                               
setting  must be  convinced  of the  merits  of [the  employer's]                                                               
case, just as with every  injury in workers' compensation where a                                                               
"controversion" comes into play.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE NELSON  asked whether he could  talk off-line with                                                               
Director Collins to get more background information.                                                                            
MR. COLLINS replied yes, he is always available to assist.                                                                      
9:04:52 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KAUFMAN  inquired  about  how  responsibility  is                                                               
assigned.   He stated that  in the previous example  of emergency                                                               
medical  technicians (EMTs)  and  a COVID  positive patient,  the                                                               
EMTs are  wearing protective  equipment and  are in  a controlled                                                               
circumstance.   It  sounds  like  it would  be  assumed the  EMTs                                                               
caught it  at work, he said,  when they may have  caught it while                                                               
out  at the  bars  the night  before.   He  asked  whether, in  a                                                               
situation of  there being a  COVID positive person  where someone                                                               
works, it would be assumed the worker caught it at work.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON  replied  that under  Alaska's  current                                                               
workers' compensation  statutes without HB  45, a person  can try                                                               
to make a  claim that he or she contracted  an infectious disease                                                               
by exposure  at the workplace.   He  said it is  more challenging                                                               
than it would  be under HB 45 because the  worker must prove that                                                               
the  conditions  of  his  or  her  employment  are  substantially                                                               
different from the ambient background  that everyone lives in and                                                               
therefore the  worker is susceptible  to contracting  the disease                                                               
at  that  place  of  employment.    For  example,  he  continued,                                                               
according to documents  in the committee packet  presented by Ms.                                                               
Sorum-Birk, it is now common  knowledge that more police officers                                                               
have  died from  COVID exposure  than any  other disease  they've                                                               
suffered  from or  being  shot,  and it  is  known  that this  is                                                               
certainly true in  the medical community.  It is  also known that                                                               
personal  protective  equipment  (PPE)  and  other  barriers  and                                                               
safety precautions may be insufficient.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON  continued his  answer.  He  stated that                                                               
part of  this is  a policy call  - wanting people  to go  to work                                                               
without fear  to save  [the public's]  loved ones  - so  the bill                                                               
tries to  identify who are  the essential workers and  offer them                                                               
this  protection.   He  recalled  last  week's testimony  by  Mr.                                                               
Collins that only  $850,000 had been spent and noted  that it has                                                               
now just  eclipsed $1 million based  on the data provided  by Ms.                                                               
Sorum-Birk.    However,  he  pointed out,  this  is  spread  over                                                               
730,000 Alaskans and,  if he is remembering correctly,  only 1 in                                                               
12 people  who have  contracted COVID in  Alaska are  believed to                                                               
have gotten it at work.  He further  said that that 1 in 12 would                                                               
include a librarian who would not  be an essential worker, and so                                                               
HB 45 limits the group.   Additionally, he continued, many of the                                                               
people who filed claims simply went  to get a COVID test and were                                                               
told  they're  negative,  and this  is  a  workers'  compensation                                                               
claim.   To be really understood,  he added, the numbers  must be                                                               
investigated and peeled back.                                                                                                   
9:08:52 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ [opened public testimony on HB 45.]                                                                          
9:09:14 PM                                                                                                                    
JAKE  METCALFE,  Executive  Director,   Local  52,  Alaska  State                                                               
Employees Association (ASEA), testified in  support of HB 45.  He                                                               
noted that  ASEA, Local 52, represents  approximately 8,000 hard-                                                               
working public  employees who deliver the  critical services that                                                               
Alaskans rely  upon every day.   He  pointed out that  last year,                                                               
essential workers,  including ASEA's  members, were asked  to put                                                               
themselves and their  families at risk to keep  Alaska running by                                                               
ensuring  critical  services  continued.   Public  employees  are                                                               
asked to  rise above and  go beyond to  keep the lights  on, keep                                                               
the roads  cleared, ensure  public water is  clean and  safe, and                                                               
that children and families in need  are cared for.  This year was                                                               
no  different,   the  pandemic  caught  everyone   off-guard,  he                                                               
continued.    Organizations  across  the  country  realized  that                                                               
pandemic preparedness was not in  many people's rule book and the                                                               
State  of  Alaska  was  no   exception.    As  organizations  and                                                               
governments  worked  hard to  respond  to  the novel  coronavirus                                                               
pandemic, the essential workers never stopped working.                                                                          
MR. METCALFE  stated that the pandemic  Alaskans stumbled through                                                               
revealed  numerous  gaps in  the  safety  net cast  for  Alaska's                                                               
working people.  He  said HB 45 would help fill  one of the holes                                                               
in  Alaska's  safety net  by  providing  a remedy  for  frontline                                                               
workers and their  families if they contract  a pandemic disease.                                                               
Several ASEA's  members, especially those working  in corrections                                                               
and  24-hour  facilities like  the  Pioneer  Home and  McLaughlin                                                               
Youth Center,  have personal stories  they can share  about their                                                               
working conditions and  exposures to the virus.   These dedicated                                                               
Alaskans,  he stressed,  are being  asked to  take major  risk to                                                               
keep Alaska running.   He requested that  legislators think about                                                               
those workers  and pass this  important bill so that  those risks                                                               
are met with some relief for the worker and the worker's family.                                                                
MR.  METCALFE  further  specified  that  HB  45  is  critical  in                                                               
ensuring that Alaska is taking  care of the essential workers who                                                               
are taking  care of Alaskans.   This bill, he added,  is just one                                                               
step that will fill a gap  that became too wide and too consuming                                                               
as  essential  workers  fell  ill   with  little  to  no  relief.                                                               
Families should not be forced  to choose between their health and                                                               
safety  and  earning  a  living.    While  HB  45  can't  protect                                                               
dedicated  essential employees  against contracting  the disease,                                                               
it will offer  them relief they will need if  they do suffer from                                                               
a pandemic illness.  He urged that HB 45 be passed.                                                                             
9:12:45 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  SPOHNHOLZ thanked  the  members of  ASEA who  routinely                                                               
work in tough  conditions, especially this year  given there were                                                               
COVID outbreaks in  several of Alaska's prisons.   She noted that                                                               
ASEA members also kept Pioneer Home residents safe.                                                                             
9:13:07 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ retroactively opened public testimony.                                                                       
9:13:17 PM                                                                                                                    
CHARLES STEWART,  Chair, Local 52 Probation  and Parole Officers,                                                               
Alaska State  Employees Association (ASEA), testified  in support                                                               
of HB 45.  He stated he is  before the committee in support of HB
45 using his own personal  experience with a contagious disease                                                                 
COVID.   He  said he  tested  positive for  COVID at  the end  of                                                               
December and was  exposed at work.  He knows  this, he continued,                                                               
because he  was so  afraid of  getting COVID,  given his  age and                                                               
health issues,  that he  only went  to work  and home  every day.                                                               
His girlfriend  worked from  home and did  not leave  their house                                                               
for  the same  reasons.   They ordered  all their  food from  the                                                               
grocery store and had it delivered to their home.                                                                               
MR. STEWART  stated that all peace  officers, firefighters, EMTs,                                                               
and  paramedics   experience  possible  exposure   to  contagious                                                               
diseases  daily   in  their  types  of   employment  and  working                                                               
conditions, and  they never  know what they  will walk  into each                                                               
day.  He  stated that HB 45 would support  these workers and give                                                               
them some peace  of mind that they would not  have to worry about                                                               
all the  other personal leave  for medical reasons in  case there                                                               
is another health issue in the future.                                                                                          
CO-CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ thanked Mr. Stewart  for his testimony and his                                                               
9:15:11 PM                                                                                                                    
PAUL  MIRANDA,   President,  Alaska   Professional  Firefighters,                                                               
testified  in support  of HB  45.   He stated  he is  an engineer                                                               
paramedic with  the Anchorage  Fire Department  at Station  14 in                                                               
northeast Alaska.   He thanked the committee for  working on this                                                               
important issue and  related that this issue is  important to all                                                               
the men and women in Alaska  who serve their communities as first                                                               
responders and  frontline essential  workers.   On behalf  of the                                                               
500  members  of  Alaska Professional  Firefighters,  he  offered                                                               
strong support for HB 45.                                                                                                       
MR. MIRANDA  pointed out that firefighters  and emergency medical                                                               
services  (EMS) personnel  place  themselves in  harm's way  when                                                               
caring  for  patients in  uncontrolled  environments,  such as  a                                                               
patient's  home or  the  back of  an ambulance.    He said  these                                                               
professionals  are not  afforded  the opportunity  to  work in  a                                                               
controlled environment  with properly ventilated rooms  and other                                                               
protective  measures.     First  responders,  along   with  other                                                               
frontline essential workers, are at  much higher risk of exposure                                                               
to  contagious  disease  due  to  the nature  of  the  work,  and                                                               
therefore  are much  more likely  to  contract certain  illnesses                                                               
through  the  course of  their  work  than individuals  in  other                                                               
career fields.                                                                                                                  
MR.  MIRANDA recounted  that  at the  beginning  of the  COVID-19                                                               
pandemic many  [fire] departments  in Alaska struggled  to obtain                                                               
adequate  levels  of  PPE to  sufficiently  protect  their  first                                                               
responders,  putting them  at  further risk  of  exposure to  the                                                               
[COVID] virus.  Due to  the nature of emerging infectious disease                                                               
outbreaks or pandemics, he continued,  there are many unknowns at                                                               
the  beginning  until scientists  have  time  to figure  out  the                                                               
nature and characteristics of disease transmission.                                                                             
MR.  MIRANDA noted  that while  it can  be difficult  to pinpoint                                                               
exactly where  an exposure to an  illness came from, it  is known                                                               
that Alaska's first  responders and essential workers  are out on                                                               
the frontlines  being potentially  exposed each  time they  go to                                                               
work.  He  related that first responders take an  oath to protect                                                               
life, property, and the environment  throughout their career.  He                                                               
said it is critical that  Alaska's first responders and frontline                                                               
essential  workers know  they are  protected and  that the  state                                                               
will have  their backs  so they  can focus  squarely on  the oath                                                               
they  promised   to  keep.     He  reiterated  that   the  Alaska                                                               
Professional Firefighters strongly supports HB  45.  He urged the                                                               
committee to support the bill as well.                                                                                          
CO-CHAIR  SPOHNHOLZ thanked  Mr.  Miranda for  his testimony  and                                                               
thanked  the  members  of Alaska  Professional  Firefighters  for                                                               
their work.                                                                                                                     
9:18:01 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KAUFMAN  surmised the  aforementioned firefighters                                                               
have sick leave.                                                                                                                
MR. MIRANDA replied that's correct.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE KAUFMAN asked  what the driving need is  for HB 45                                                               
if someone is already covered by sick leave.                                                                                    
MR. MIRANDA explained  the notion is that if  someone contracts a                                                               
disease such as  [COVID] through the course  of their employment,                                                               
the individual should  not be burdened with using his  or her own                                                               
sick  leave, if  they  have it.    It should  be  covered by  the                                                               
employer, he  continued, if the individual  contracts the disease                                                               
during his or her course of normal duties.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE KAUFMAN stated  that a person may not  want to use                                                               
his or her sick leave [for COVID],  but that's what it's for.  He                                                               
said he  still isn't  convinced when someone  is covered  by sick                                                               
leave.   He stated that  when he has  gotten sick with  a typical                                                               
cold or flu, most of the time he probably caught it at work.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON responded that  this is a pandemic where                                                               
the lucky  ones are asymptomatic  or only affected for  3-5 days,                                                               
while others are on ventilators or  at the hospital.  He said the                                                               
three basic  things [in HB 45]  are that the employee  would need                                                               
to  use his  or  her sick  leave, the  employee  would have  full                                                               
medical rather  than be subject  to deductibles and  co-pays, and                                                               
the  employee  would  receive  a  spendable  weekly  wage,  which                                                               
doesn't  often  amount  to  much,  but  the  employee  would  get                                                               
something rather than no weekly wage.   He further noted that for                                                               
an  employee who  is  a  "long-hauler" and  sick  for months  and                                                               
months, it's meaningful  to have that rather than to  have a sick                                                               
leave bank that is expired.                                                                                                     
9:21:25 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  NELSON  recalled  previous  statements  about  it                                                               
being difficult to pinpoint whether  the infection came from work                                                               
or elsewhere.  He said that is where he has a quandary.                                                                         
CO-CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ requested Mr. Collins  to speak to the process                                                               
for determining whether there is employer responsibility.                                                                       
MR.  COLLINS explained  that  as with  any  workplace injury  the                                                               
employee  has  the  responsibility  of  turning  in  his  or  her                                                               
paperwork and the employer always  has the rebuttable evidence to                                                               
bring forth  as to whether  [the injury did  happen at work].   A                                                               
disease might  not be  quite as  straight forward  as a  slip and                                                               
fall, he continued,  but there certainly is  the possibility that                                                               
it could be rebutted.  The  employer could controvert or deny the                                                               
claim and  the employee would then  be forced to go  to a hearing                                                               
to prove his or her case.                                                                                                       
9:23:22 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTY  recounted that while doing  graduate work                                                               
he drove  an ambulance in Los  Angeles.  It was  during the start                                                               
of  the  AIDS  epidemic,  so   he  was  dealing  with  bloodborne                                                               
pathogens and fluids.  But,  he continued, airborne pathogens are                                                               
being talked  about here.  He  asked Mr. Miranda whether  in this                                                               
industry it is correct that there are always airborne pathogens.                                                                
MR. MIRANDA answered that's correct.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  MCCARTY asked  how Mr.  Miranda and  the industry                                                               
differentiate whether  someone's illness from  airborne pathogens                                                               
was acquired on the job or not.                                                                                                 
MR. MIRANDA responded that he  thinks the nature of this pandemic                                                               
has opened people's  eyes to some of those  things.  [Paramedics]                                                               
have  personal protective  equipment  for respiratory  protection                                                               
that are now  being worn in most of the  departments in Anchorage                                                               
during   every   interaction   with   patients.     As   far   as                                                               
differentiating previously,  he said  he thinks  it was  a little                                                               
easier  to trace  because it  wasn't in  the middle  of a  global                                                               
pandemic.  When  [a paramedic] took someone to  the hospital with                                                               
a  respiratory  illness,  the  hospital  followed  up,  and  that                                                               
exposure could be easily traced  to the workplace, whereas COVID-                                                               
19 is different.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTY posed  a scenario in which  an employer is                                                               
doing due diligence  to make sure the workplace is  safe, such as                                                               
having masks  and protective equipment.   He asked at  what point                                                               
does it becomes an infraction or a claim to the employer.                                                                       
MR. COLLINS replied  that that is an extremely  good question for                                                               
which  there  probably is  not  a  definitive  answer.   He  said                                                               
firefighters already  have a presumption of  coverage for certain                                                               
diseases under  AS 23.30.121, which  speaks directly to  that and                                                               
is  a  bit  of  a  carveout.    He  explained  that  for  certain                                                               
carcinogenic  airborne  particles  that may  cause  certain  lung                                                               
diseases,  firefighters  have  a  presumption  that  allows  them                                                               
greater   access   to   workers'  compensation   than,   say,   a                                                               
construction worker who burns things  all day long and is exposed                                                               
to the  same materials but would  not be covered because  it is a                                                               
much steeper incline  for that construction worker  to prove that                                                               
it's a  workplace injury.   He stated  that moving the  needle of                                                               
the presumption  opens the gate a  little bit wider to  what is a                                                               
workplace injury, whether it is  an airborne disease, blood-based                                                               
pathogen,  or something  else.    That is  a  discussion for  the                                                               
committee  to have,  he said.   He  offered his  opinion that  he                                                               
thinks extreme care  must be taken about how  wide that floodgate                                                               
is opened.                                                                                                                      
9:28:31 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  MIRANDA returned  to the  initial question  asked of  him by                                                               
Representative  Kaufman.    He  said  Representative  Josephson's                                                               
answer  to  that  question  was  very  accurate  -  this  is  not                                                               
necessarily just  for those folks  who might have  minor symptoms                                                               
and miss a couple days of work.   For example, he related, one of                                                               
the  firefighters  contracted  COVID  while at  work  at  a  busy                                                               
station, it was  well documented, it was at the  beginning of the                                                               
pandemic  when  this  person responded  to  many  COVID  positive                                                               
patients,  and  this  person   is  having  long-term  significant                                                               
symptoms from  COVID.  He said  that speaks to the  need for this                                                               
bill  specifically and  these pandemic  situations that  can have                                                               
long lasting effects on employees.                                                                                              
9:29:57 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ closed public testimony on HB 45.                                                                            
9:30:10 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SNYDER  moved to  adopt  Amendment  1 to  HB  45,                                                               
labeled 32-LS0304\B.3, Marx, 3/13/21, which read:                                                                               
     Page 2, following line 14:                                                                                                 
     Insert a new subparagraph to read:                                                                                         
              "(I)  employee of a farmer's market;                                                                              
          (J)  employee of a vendor who sells products                                                                          
     directly to consumers at a farmer's market;"                                                                               
     Reletter the following subparagraph accordingly.                                                                           
     Page 2, line 17:                                                                                                           
          Delete "(A) - (H)"                                                                                                    
          Insert "(A) - (J)"                                                                                                    
     Page 2, following line 23:                                                                                                 
     Insert a new paragraph to read:                                                                                            
               "(4)  "farmer's market" means a seasonal                                                                         
               (A)  operated under the sponsorship of a                                                                         
     community organization; and                                                                                                
               (B)  the main purpose of which is to provide                                                                     
       an opportunity for producers to sell agricultural                                                                        
     products directly to consumers;"                                                                                           
     Renumber the following paragraphs accordingly.                                                                             
9:30:19 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE NELSON objected for purposes of discussion.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE SNYDER  explained Amendment 1 would  add "employee                                                               
of a farmer's  market" and "employee of a vendor  who sells" at a                                                               
farmer's  market.    She  said  the  amendment  uses  the  Alaska                                                               
Administrative Code's  existing definition for  farmer's markets.                                                               
She stated that  adding these occupations to  the list originally                                                               
covered in  HB 45  on page 2  is in line  with the  rationale for                                                               
including grocery  store workers, which  is to ensure  that peace                                                               
of mind is  provided to those Alaskans who  are essential workers                                                               
making  sure the  public has  access  to food  in the  time of  a                                                               
pandemic.    Farmer's markets,  she  noted,  are an  increasingly                                                               
important  venue  for food  procurement  in  Alaska.   They  were                                                               
thrust  into the  pandemic response  conversation this  past year                                                               
when they  weren't initially included  in the list  of operations                                                               
permitted to be open during  the temporary lockdown in Anchorage.                                                               
After  discussions with  local leadership  and with  food-focused                                                               
stakeholder groups,  the importance  of farmer's markets  to food                                                               
access and to local economies  including Alaskan farmers and food                                                               
vendors  was recognized  and farmer's  markets was  added to  the                                                               
list of operations  that should stay open.  She  said Amendment 1                                                               
seeks to  make sure farmer's  market workers delivering  the same                                                               
important services as grocery store workers are protected.                                                                      
9:31:53 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE NELSON spoke  to his objection.  He  said he knows                                                               
farmer's  markets are  prevalent, especially  in east  Anchorage.                                                               
He recalled  earlier statements about  the importance  of keeping                                                               
people covered  for what they  must do  and if they  have contact                                                               
with  COVID.   But,  he continued,  a warning  was  given of  not                                                               
casting this net too wide.   He stated that including an employee                                                               
of a farmer's market  and an employee of a vendor  who sells at a                                                               
farmer's market is too wide and he is uncomfortable with it.                                                                    
9:33:04 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KAUFMAN stated  he is  struggling with  the scope                                                               
and potential  impacts of the bill,  and Amendment 1 is  a nuance                                                               
of a bigger picture  about which he is concerned.   He said HB 45                                                               
allows to whom the bill applies to  be defined in the future by a                                                               
commissioner,  so  there  is  no  real  scope  of  applicability.                                                               
Getting  Amendment  1  in  the   bill  would  be  one  thing,  he                                                               
continued,  but  it  wouldn't   solve  his  concerns  of  greater                                                               
potential in the future of how this could be defined outward.                                                                   
CO-CHAIR  SPOHNHOLZ inquired  whether  Representative Kaufman  is                                                               
saying Amendment 1 dramatically  expands the applicability in the                                                               
bill.  She said she is not reading the amendment that way.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  KAUFMAN  replied  not   [Amendment  1],  but  the                                                               
amendment doesn't address his concern.                                                                                          
CO-CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ offered  her understanding that Representative                                                               
Kaufman has  concerns with the  underlying bill,  not necessarily                                                               
the amendment.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE KAUFMAN  responded that  the amendment  doesn't go                                                               
far enough in respect to his concern.                                                                                           
9:34:21 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SNYDER  offered her  appreciation for  there still                                                               
being  questions and  further discussions  on  HB 45.   She  said                                                               
Amendment 1 simply  looks at the occupations covered,  and if the                                                               
committee is  interested in protecting essential  workers who are                                                               
ensuring the public  has access to food resources in  the time of                                                               
a  pandemic during  a disaster  declaration, then  it is  an easy                                                               
connection that these employees are  just as important as grocery                                                               
store workers.                                                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ stated that unique  about farmer's markets and                                                               
those who sell produce at markets  are that they can only operate                                                               
during a  very limited  time frame.   It's  an attempt  to ensure                                                               
Alaska's farmers  have a  market for  their produce  and Alaskans                                                               
have  access to  fresh produce,  which Alaskans  have not  always                                                               
had.   If this can help  keep Alaska's farmer's markets  open and                                                               
people working during that timeframe, it is a positive thing.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KAUFMAN  said he  loves Alaska's  farmer's markets                                                               
and noted that they are held  outdoors, so the inherent risk is a                                                               
bit lower for some but not all.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE SNYDER agreed with some  but not all.  She pointed                                                               
out that some markets are in partially enclosed pavilions.                                                                      
CO-CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ  stated that the  objection to Amendment  1 is                                                               
9:36:09 PM                                                                                                                    
A roll  call vote  was taken.   Representatives  Schrage, Snyder,                                                               
Fields,   and  Spohnholz   voted   in  favor   of  Amendment   1.                                                               
Representatives Nelson,  Kaufman, and  McCarty voted  against it.                                                               
Therefore, Amendment 1 was adopted by a vote of 4-3.                                                                            
9:36:56 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  SPOHNHOLZ  explained  that  final action  on  the  bill                                                               
cannot  be  taken  without  Co-Chair  Fields  being  [physically]                                                               
present,  and therefore  the  committee would  take  up the  bill                                                               
again on [3/17/21].                                                                                                             
CO-CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ announced that HB 45 was held over.                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 132 v. B 3.10.21.PDF HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 132
HB 45 Amendment #1.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45
HB 45 Sectional Analysis 2.24.21.pdf HL&C 3/5/2021 3:15:00 PM
HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45
HB 45 Sponsor Statement 2.24.21.pdf HL&C 3/5/2021 3:15:00 PM
HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45
HB 45 Version A.PDF HL&C 3/5/2021 3:15:00 PM
HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45
HB 45 Presentation 3.2.21.pdf HL&C 3/5/2021 3:15:00 PM
HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45
HB 45 Fiscal Note DOLWD-WC 1.22.21.pdf HL&C 3/5/2021 3:15:00 PM
HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45
HB 45 - testimony received as of 3.13.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45
HB 45 background document- Division of Workers' Compensation- Effects of Covid 3.3.21.pdf HL&C 3/5/2021 3:15:00 PM
HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45
HB 45 background document- Division of Workers' Compenstion- COVID-19 WC Year End Report Final 3.3.21.pdf HL&C 3/5/2021 3:15:00 PM
HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45
HB 45 background document- NCCI- AK HB 45 Analysis 3.3.21.pdf HL&C 3/5/2021 3:15:00 PM
HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45
HB 45 supporting document - research, 3.13.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45
HB 100 v. A.PDF HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 100
HB 100 supporting document - UA presentation.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 100
HB 100 letters of support, 3.13.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 100
HB 100 supporting document - DOL AWIB Flow Chart.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 100
HB 100 supporting document -TVEP Annual Report FY20.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 100
HB 100 supporting document - UA Results Overview.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 100
HB 100 FN - DOLWD-WIB, 3.13.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 100
HB 100 FN - DEED, 3.13.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 100
HB 100 FN - DOLWD-WD, 3.13.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 100
HB 100 FN - DOLWD-UI, 3.13.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 100
HB 132 FN DOR, 3.13.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 132
HB 132 FN DOLWD-WH, 3.13.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 132
HB 132 FN DOLWD-WIB, 3.13.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 132
HB 100 presentation, 3.13.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
SFIN 5/14/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 100
HB 132 Sectional Analysis v. B 3.12.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 132
HB 132 Sponsor Statement 3.12.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 132
HB 132 PowerPoint 3.12.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 132
HB 132 Letter of Support - ASHNA 3.11.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 132
HB 132 Letter of Support - Matsu Borough School District 2.24.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 132
HB 100 UA Presentation 3.15.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HL&C 3/17/2021 5:45:00 PM
SFIN 5/3/2021 9:00:00 AM
SFIN 5/14/2021 1:00:00 PM
HB 100
HB 100 Bill Presentation 3.15.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HL&C 3/17/2021 5:45:00 PM
HB 100
HB 100 Supporting Document - FY22 Proposed Distribution 3.15.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HL&C 3/17/2021 5:45:00 PM
HB 100
HB 45 responses to House Labor and Commerce committee questions 3.15.21.pdf HL&C 3/15/2021 6:30:00 PM
HB 45